Blessed Are The Poor In Spirit
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Leo the Great, a native of Tuscany, was elected bishop of Rome in 440 and is perhaps best known for meeting with Attila the Hun in 452 and persuading him to turn back from his invasion of Italy. The nearly 100 sermons and 150 letters of his that have survived are mostly concerned with theological questions concerning the person of Jesus Christ and his role as Mediator and Saviour. Leo taught extensively on Christ's presence in the Church: in the teaching of Scripture, in the preaching of the faith, in the liturgy and in the life of the individual believer.
Concerning the content of Christ's teaching, his own sacred words bear witness; thus whoever longs to attain eternal blessedness can now recognize the steps that lead to that high happiness. Blessed, he says, are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. It might have been unclear to which poor he was referring, if after the words Blessed are the poor, he had not added anything about the kind of poor he had in mind. For then the poverty that many suffer because of grave and harsh necessity might seem sufficient to merit the kingdom of heaven. But when he says: Blessed are the poor in spirit, he shows that the kingdom of heaven is to be given to those who are distinguished by their humility of soul rather than by their lack of worldly goods.
It cannot be doubted that the poor can more easily attain the blessing of humility than those who are rich. In the case of the poor, the lack of worldly goods is often accompanied by a quiet gentleness, whereas the rich are more prone to arrogance. Nevertheless, many wealthy people are disposed to use their abundance not to swell their own pride but to perform works of benevolence. They consider their greatest gain what they spend to alleviate the distress of others.
This virtue is open to all men, no matter what their class or condition because all can be equal in their willingness to give, however unequal they may be in earthly fortune. Indeed, their inequality in regard to worldly means is unimportant, provided they are found equal in spiritual possessions. Blessed, therefore, is that poverty which is not trapped by the love of temporal things and does not seek to be enriched by worldly wealth, but desires rather to grow rich in heavenly goods.
The apostles were the first after the Lord himself to provide us with an example of this generous poverty, when they all equally left their belongings at the call of the heavenly master. By an immediate conversion they were turned from the catching of fish to become fishers of men, and by their own example they won many others to the imitation of their own faith. In these first sons of the Church there was but one heart and one soul among all who believed. Abandoning all their worldly property and possessions in their dedicated poverty, they were enriched with eternal goods, and in accordance with the apostolic preaching, they rejoiced to have nothing of this world and to possess all things with Christ.
Therefore, when the apostle Peter was on his way up to the temple and was asked for alms by the lame man, he replied: Silver and gold I have not; but what I have I give you. In the name of Jesus Christ of Nazareth, arise and walk. What is more sublime than this humility? And what could be richer than this poverty? Though Peter cannot assist with money, he can confer gifts of nature. With a word Peter brought healing to the man who had been lame from birth; he who did not give a coin with the emperor's image refashioned the image of Jesus in this man.
And by the riches of this treasure, not only did he help the man who recovered the power to walk, but also five thousand others who believed the preaching of the apostle because of this miraculous cure. Thus Peter, who in his poverty had no money to give to the beggar, bestowed such a bounty of divine grace that in restoring to health the feet of one man, he healed the hearts of many thousands of believers. He had found all of them lame; but he made them leap for joy in Christ.
Leo the Great
Acts 3:1 - 4:4
2 Corinthians 8:1-17
you became poor for our sake,
so that by your poverty we might become rich:
Grant to your people so to give of their substance
that they may become ever more like you,
who live and reign with the Father and the Holy Spirit,
one God for ever and ever.
Pray with us today's prayer request:
In Uganda churches have been closed since June and cannot open until October. The Anglican Church of Uganda runs online services, prayer meetings, youth meetings, and children's quizzes through their Facebook page 'Online Church of Uganda'. These have been well received. Pray for resources to keep the programmes going, and for energy and inspiration for the leaders.
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